Surf’s Up @ SurfSET (and I’ve got a Secret)

In honor of the new Point Break movie (at least the original was awesome), I trekked to the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers  to try the SurfSET class that you can book through either ClassPass or FitReserve even if you aren’t a member of the gym. (And by the way, considering all the amenities including the giant pool, indoor track, super-spacious locker room, and a full class menu, at less than $200 a month, it’s not a bad deal. The trick is getting there.)

It was a humbling experience. Coming off my runner’s high from Mile High Run Club and feeling the burn of total body training at Exceed, I thought for sure a silly surfing-style class would be a breeze. But just standing without wobbling was a challenge!

 

The perky, but tough teacher, Diana, had to hold my hand at one point so I could keep my balance as I attempted lunges on a surfboard that was attached to unstable inflated balls. In a 45-minute class she had us alternate between intensive cardio, strength and balance intervals. There were a lot of what she called wave runners that were basically plank mountain climbers on the unstable surf board.

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In addition, we did squats half-on and half off the board, pretended to kick sharks in a Pilates-esque move, and went from face-down “paddling” to a wide-stance squat in mock stand-up for a wave on the board. I’m sure it’s not sufficient training for the real thing, but it was a decent workout with lots of core work. And more importantly it was novel and FUN!

It’s good to feel humble once in a while, and to challenge your muscles (and balance) in new ways. In fact this takes the whole core stability trend to a peak. Rather than feeling silly on a balance board or Bosu, why not feel even sillier pretending to be a surfer dude for the day?

I wouldn’t make this my main fitness source (not enough cardio and no extra weights, although we did use bands), but I’ll definitely be back. Plus, and I’m hesitant to write this for fear of them cracking down, but here’s the secret: after class I hung out at the Sports Center checking out the indoor track and enjoying the sauna in the locker room. I could easily spend the afternoon there and stop by the cafe for some post-workout sushi and smoothies on the way out.

SurfSET at Chelsea Piers

PROS: Awesome space including the giant locker rooms with plush showers and towels (bring your own lock); great teacher; fun and different; no shoes needed.

CONS: Location (a pier is by nature not centrally located); not the most efficient workout if you’re looking for total body plus cardio, but tougher than your average Pilates class and I haven’t graduated to the advanced classes yet, so who knows!

Racking up miles at the Mile High Run Club

Every time I tell my partner that I’m going to try out the Mile High Run Club he giggles. Can’t help but picture something naughty on an airplane or in this case, a treadmill.

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But my workout at Mile High was no joke. I took the 45-minute Dash 28 class which consists of a warm-up, 28 minutes of interval running on the treadmill, and 10 minutes of strength training. This workout had all the ingredients of what I love at Orange Theory Fitness (my gold standard in fitness classes) minus the rower and the heart rate monitor:

  • Encouraging, knowledgable trainer
  • Cardio plus strength all in one workout
  • High-intensity intervals

I’ll definitely be putting Mile High into my FitReserve rotation. The trainer even had me itching to sign myself up for a 5K race in the real world as she related pace choices for intervals to paces for a 10K or a half marathon. Another cool perk at Mile High is that you can try out new pairs of Nike shoes for free. So as long as you’re not grossed out by wearing shared footwear, you can’t use forgetting your sneakers as an excuse not to go.

It may have been a bit ambitious to follow my Exceed workout with this one. The subway stairs were painful after class, but I guess that’s a sign that mixing it up is working.

Also, does anyone know if different treadmills are harder or easier than one another. I found 7.0 speed at a 1% incline much more challenging at Mile High than at Orange Theory. Could have been my own lag, but it’s curious.

Here’s the skinny:

Mile High Run Club

Locations in NoHo (E. 4th St.) and NoMad (W. 25th St.)

PROS: Great for any kind of runner from beginner to marathoner; good space in both workout room and locker room; choose from endurance running or total body workout classes; pace your own intensity; usual boutique amenities: lockers, showers, and hair ties; Nike shoe trials; friendly staff.

CONS: If you’re not into treadmills or running this is obviously not the workout for you; I’ll have to try the NoMad location- the NoHo one was far from the subway

 

Exceeded Expectations

I finally made it to Exceed Physical Culture on the Upper East Side thanks to FitReserve. I could never find a convenient time that wasn’t booked as soon as the booking window opened on ClassPass.

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This was an all-out, HIIT workout with very little down time, and not for beginners. Unlike Barre and Yoga classes, this is the kind of class a guy could attend while still maintaining bro status. And I’m not trying to maintain society’s silly gender boundaries. I’ve seen men in Pilates classes too. But, it’s no secret that fitness class attendance rosters run heavy on the estrogen. And readers of both sexes have asked me which classes tend to have more guys.

Turns out the number of men in a class can depend on timing, and at Exceed, some evening and Saturday classes are split about 50/50 along gender lines. The three guys that were in my 14-person 10:30 am class were definitely as sweaty and tired as I was when the clock ran out. The Masters classes (which you can only attend after the prerequisite 5 signature classes, and proof that you can correctly perform dead lifts, thrusters and box jumps) are even heavier on the guys to gals ratio.

Similar to many of my favorite classes (like EVF, Brick, and As One), Exceed’s 50-min signature class features different combinations of intervals, including Tabata, and 2-minute circuits so you get total body strength training while keeping your heart rate up. (Next time I’ll wear my heart rate monitor to find out exactly how high).

The instructor (I had Tracey who was awesome!) carefully demonstrated moves and corrected students’ form through movements that used TRX, kettle balls, and the rowing machine. This workout had the level of intensity I’d hoped for at Kore, but didn’t quite get. Another thing that sets them apart is their physical space. As in, they have some: several big, open rooms for workouts, and a full-size locker room. Plus, I can tell today that I hit muscle groups I haven’t in a while because my delts and quads are just the right amount of sore to remind me they exist, but moveable enough that I can still go try out Mile High Run Club this afternoon!

Here’s the skinny version:

Exceed Physical Culture

“A full service boutique gym that offers group classes to all levels of athletes, and a space for personal trainers looking to achieve their personal best and help their clients do the same.”

Locations:  Upper East Side and Tribeca

PROS: Efficient, truly high-intensity, total-body workout with knowledgable, friendly trainers; great space with showers, towels and lockers provided.

CONS: I’d feel intimidated if I were a beginner (most people in class were athlete level!); location isn’t the easiest for me as I live on Upper West Side.

My New Workout Buddy is LOLO Jones

At first, I didn’t think much of the e-mail from the manager of my Orange Theory Fitness in Chelsea inviting me to a special workout session with Lolo Jones. I’d heard the name, but didn’t realize her supernova-star power. Not only is she an Olympian, holding world records in track and field (along with competitive bobsledding on the side), she is an Amazonian bombshell, and the new spokesperson for OTF.

When I arrived for my workout, there she was in the locker room with an entourage of hair and make-up. There was a lot of commotion, and as I tip-toed to put my things in a locker she graciously apologized for taking up all the space. Her smile and demeanor were completely down-to-earth, and in that instant I really felt as though she could be my workout buddy.

Here she is on the treadmill, and as my name starts with K, it was right next to hers on the scoreboard.

 

Untitled documentIn my resolution to save more money this year, I’d been planning on giving my one-month notice to cancel my membership after the workout. But, after I’d pushed myself to higher levels of speed and push-up-to-row reps than ever before (if only there was an Olympic athlete in the room for every workout), I couldn’t quite get the words, “I quit,” to come out of my mouth. SO, now I still have my OTF membership, and a FitReserve membership.

So far, Orange Theory really is still the best workout I’ve ever had. I will continue to search for one that comes close throughout the month and report on my findings. Heading over to Exceed Physical Culture right now.

And until then, I have Lolo (or at least the treadmill that she ran on)!

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Not HIIT with Best Shot at KORE Method

When I heard there was a swank new HIIT studio (with chilled, eucalyptus-infused towels!) in the trendiest of hoods,  I booked a session on FitReserve and headed to Kore on West 13th Street.

I was primed for intensity, hopeful for a dark, clubby vibe with killer tunes. The room was dark. It was also spartan, the only equipment being TRX straps, kettle balls, and bands. They boast a 5 step-format HIIT workout (high-intensity interval training) that targets strength and cardio without the treadmill. After some active stretching, the highlight of the workout is the 8-minute series of high-rep body weight strength and stability movements.

While the trainer was knowledgable and encouraging, and the method mixes up such a variety of movements that I was never bored, the intensity was not much higher than a shetland pony, and the music was less than memorable.

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That said, I did break a sweat and was challenged by the kick-ups (in which several classmates made it to hand stand). Many of the moves were original and creative– not just a bunch of burpees, which I liked. It was kind of like boot-camp meets pilates with some kettle-balls and TRX thrown in. While I won’t be putting them on my regular workout rotation, it was an above-average workout.

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And sure, there were the fancy skin care products, and the chilled eucalyptus towels, but there was only one bathroom. The lobby was cramped enough to bump into 6 people while trying to remove my coat. I opted not to try out the showers to avoid the closet-like “locker” room.

The short story:

Kore New York

Meatpacking District, 336 W 13th St, New York, NY 10014

Pros: Interesting workout with great instructors. Small group format. Chilled eucalyptus towels and free lockers. Dark room, loud music. Some challenging and origianl moves.

Cons: Not as high-intensity as they claim. Trying to be too cool. Teeny-tiny lobby and even smaller locker room/bathroom.

 

 

Buffer Than Barry

For my first class hop of 2016, I decided to head back to my former love, and what I considered the gold standard in high-intensity, total body workout: Barry’s Bootcamp. (See previous posts, here and here.)

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What I learned: I am waaaaay more fit, than the first time I tried it, thanks to my Orange Theory Fitness superpowers.

When the coach called out that I should be at 6, 7, or 8 (as in MPH), the lower speeds were a breeze, whereas last year I couldn’t even get to them. I could also handle heavier weights!

I kind of love the anonymity and dance club feel of the darkly-lit room at Barry’s, but don’t feel nearly the level of personal attention to form nor the encouragement that I got from Orange Theory coaches. Instead, the coaches, staff, and clientele are uber-hip. And you get to pamper yourself with MALIN+GOETZ skin and hair care products in the locker room. (This was really my only complaint at Orange Theory– while they have superior fitness classes and provide hair ties and a blow dryer, they are skimpy on the skin care products: no free deodorant and the towels are scratchy.)

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After OTF pushing me to higher run speeds based on the increased efficiency of my heart rate, I now know that I won’t fall off Barry’s treadmill if I hit 8 or sometimes even 9 MPH. And another thing I didn’t miss at OTF – the rower. I know, I know, rowing is sooooo good for you. But I’ve got calloused palms, and my heart rate never gets as high on the rower as on the treadmill. Might be time for me to venture to the Mile High Run Club and see how I stack up there. . .

Hopping Back to FitReserve

First off, I want to apologize for the long hiatus. I haven’t posted in a while or replied to comments as I was dealing with some health issues (more on that in a later post), but now, I’m back!

For the last 9 months I’ve been semi-exclusive with Orange Theory Fitness (occasionally visiting FlyWheel and Yoga to the People on the side). I LOVE OTF! But alas, monogamy fitness is not my cup of tea. The body craves variety. Orange Theory does mix it up between the treadmill, rowing machine, TRX, and weight work focusing alternately on endurance, strength, and power depending on the day. And I feel a bit guilty leaving them as they have taken me to a much higher level of fitness than I was achieving in my ClassPass days. I can run faster, and uphill. I feel stronger and have more definition in my legs, arms and abs. I love the intensity and efficiency of their heart-rate monitored, total body fitness classes. The coaches (especially Eddie!) are excellent– really watching your form and encouraging progress. Plus, there’s one in my hometown, so I can travel and still go to my own gym. I can safely say, that in all my class hopping thus far, OTF takes the cake (as in the cake I ate off of my butt).

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But it ain’t cheap. In NYC, a monthly membership for unlimited classes cost me $329 a month. I have NEVER paid that much for a gym before. Then, I thought, I’ll do it for one month, at least 4 times a week to get in shape for summer. I got hooked. I could no longer push myself without the coaches and the meticulously-planned full-body focus. I justified the expenditure because it was my health, and figured I’d cut back on eating out and clothes. I also found out that I could get $200 back from my health insurance with proof that I’d attended the gym at least 50 times in a 6-month period. But $329 a month is a big chunk of change, no matter how you cut it. I dropped down to the 8-times-per-month membership for $219 a month.

But now, It’s time to face the fact that I need to save a little money. That, and I’ve got to see how my new fit-self does back at Barry’s Bootcamp (now on the FitReserve roster!). With a wandering eye and a hankering to try some kinkier, wilder fitness forays in 2016 (like aerial fabric pole dancing and Thai Kickboxing, I’m putting my OTF membership on hold, and taking FitReserve for another spin.

I’m choosing FitReserve over ClassPass for now as the price of ClassPass has gone up (to $125 from $99 per month), and I’m haunted by nightmares of setting calendar alarms for the booking windows of my favorite classes, scrolling through endless choices, the choicest of which were always un-bookable on ClassPass.

But whether you’re using FitReserve, ClassPass, or just class-hopping on your own, this classhopper is happy to be sharing her adventures with you once again. I plan to try new classes, return to old faves, and hopefully catch up on some requests, like finding out which classes have the most guys in attendance.

Happy 2016 and Happy Hopping!